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British Industrial History

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Swainson, Birley and Co

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of Fishwick Mills, Preston.

  • 1849 'Frightful Accident at Preston.—
    On Thursday morning, a dreadful accident occurred at the cotton mill of Messrs. Swainson, Birley, and Co., Fishwick, near this town, which one man was instantaneously killed, another so fearfully injured that, in all probability, death must speedily ensue.— It appears that on Wednesday morning Mr. Oddy, the manager of the mill, perceived an escape of gas, and gave orders for an examination of the pipes. On Thursday morning, about twenty minutes to seven o'clock, a labourer of the name of Thomas Lawson proceeded to search for the leakage; it being dark, he procured a lamp, when the gas from the main pipe immediately ignited at the mouth of a sewer. The consequence was, that the whole of the lights in the north-east portion of the mill were extinguished ; upon which the weavers instantly threw their looms out of gear. The engine being relieved of a great proportion of its weight acquired such a velocity from the impetus thus given to it that the fly-wheel was splintered to pieces. This engine (which was a small one, there being two in the factory) was situated at the east end of the large mill, and worked the looms in the north-east mill. The ordinary speed of the flywheel was about 50 revolutions per minute. One of the columns of the large engine was broken off, and the fragments were scattered in various directions; some to one end and some to the other end of the engine-house, which is 80 feet long. A partition-wall two feet thick, dividing the engine-room, was levelled with the ground by the force of the shock. John Cooke, engine-tenter, about 60 years of age, was dreadfully injured whilst endeavouring, as was supposed, to stop his engine. His right arm was torn off near to the shoulder joint, and he was also otherwise hurt —so much so, indeed, that his life is despaired of. He was struck by a fragment of the fly-wheel, and fell a depth of 10 feet through a hole which had been made in the floor. The stop valve and chest of the engine (which was of 40-horse power) having been broken off caused it to stop. Shortly after the accident, Henry Kirkham, manager in the throstle-room, was found lying behind the door of the south entrance to the engine-house. He was quite dead, having been struck on the head by a fragment of the wheel, and his legs also were broken. He was 24 years of age. A fragment of the fly-wheel penetrated the wall the north end of the engine-room, which is 18 inches thick. Another fragment was thrown through the window at the south end of the large engine-house. The small engine-house, where the casualty occurred, is 28 feet by 10 feet. The engine sustained comparatively little damage. The windows at each end of the engine-house were shattered to pieces. A portion of the hands, from 600 to 700 in number, will be deprived of work for a short time by the accident; probably, however, not for more than few days.'[1]
  • 1891 Directory (Preston): Listed as Cotton spinners and manufacturers. More details
  • 1894 Advert

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, Saturday 24th November 1849